Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Help build tomorrow's Bridge

The Bridge Magazine, now in its 45th year, is planning significant changes to meet the needs of Kilcullen's residents over the coming years, writes Brian Byrne. But it needs new blood. And the blood is out there. It's you.

The longest-running community magazine of its kind in Ireland, the Bridge has documented generations of the village-become-a-town's heritage and development, and is a touchstone to what is important in Kilcullen both for those here for many decades as well as many people and families who have come to live here in recent times.

It has also been an outlet for people with an interest in writing, triggering some of us to go on to careers in that arena. It has, too, been a place where local issues, opinions, and hopes could be aired on a platform that was truly without any underlying bias but to echo Kilcullen and its people within where they lived.

The format for most of the Bridge's life has been A4, with a side trip at one stage into tabloid size when this writer became the editor back in the 1980s. What hasn't changed over the magazine's four and a half decades has been the endeavours of successive editorial boards that it would provide Kilcullen people old and new with news, opinion, features, history, and other content related to the town.

During those decades there have been many times when those producing the Bridge were seriously concerned about the viability of its future. And always, it has managed to continue. As it is doing now, and will continue to do from now.

But in a communications era where the 140-character Tweet and the fast-flowing Facebook 'status' newsfeed are where most people in any community 'meet', there's a question over the relevance of an old print format and monthly magazine even in a still-small place like Kilcullen.

I'm a very digitally involved writer and publisher. With colleague Trish Whelan, I set up Kildare News Network, KNN, long before there were any of the now many county-based local news outlets on the web, and before Twitter or Facebook. That was in the days when we had to build our own website, before Blogger and Wordpress made such things easy for anyone. I was also a startup partner in Ireland's first motoring website,, now incorporated into the Irish Examiner, and later set up In that motoring context, Trish Whelan and I currently operate as part of our Irish Car+Travel and Irish Van & Truck print magazines business. I have also developed and produced the Kilcullen Diary for more than a decade.

But I still have a strong belief in the value of a community print magazine. Not least because it gave me a first platform for a career that, as of yesterday, I am now continuing in my 72nd year. There's always something special about words on a printed page, something that doesn't easily transfer into digital.

That's why I'm writing this. Because there are people both older and younger than me who give their voluntary time to keep the Bridge appearing ten months out of every year. Who do it because ... well, because that's what they do.

But tomorrow night, Thursday, in the Kilcullen Heritage Centre, there's an opportunity for others — such as you who may not already be involved — to help carry that very important community flag beyond them. To carry the Bridge to its half century and, hopefully, beyond.

If you are already involved as a PR in your local organisation, come along tomorrow night. Because there will be advice, help and encouragement to do your volunteer community job better. If you have a thought to help in writing, photography, production or any other way in YOUR local magazine, Ireland's longest-running, come along.

There will be opportunity to crib, to contribute, to learn. There will be questions, and hopefully some, maybe tentative, answers about the future. There will be wine, and nibbles.

Hey, it looks like, sounds like, and maybe will be, a party. It's also a workshop, if you come.

Kilcullen Heritage Centre, 8pm. For you. And yours. And Kilcullen's tomorrow community media space. Lots of people brought it this far. Now it's yours.